THE MUSICAL CONTEST OF PAN AND APOLLOAbhorring riches he inhabited
the woods and fields, and followed Pan who dwells
always in mountain-caves: but still obtuse
remained, from which his foolish mind again,
by an absurd decision, harmed his life.
He followed Pan up to the lofty mount
Tmolus, which from its great height looks far
across the sea. Steep and erect it stands
between great Sardis and the small Hypaepa.
While Pan was boasting there to mountain nymphs
of his great skill in music, and while he
was warbling a gay tune upon the reeds,
cemented with soft wax, in his conceit
he dared to boast to them how he despised
Apollo's music when compared with his—.
At last to prove it, he agreed to stand
against Apollo in a contest which
it was agreed should be decided by
Tmolus as their umpire.
This old god
sat down on his own mountain, and first eased
his ears of many mountain growing trees,
oak leaves were wreathed upon his azure hair
and acorns from his hollow temples hung.
First to the Shepherd-god Tmolus spoke:
“My judgment shall be yours with no delay.
Pan made some rustic sounds on his rough reeds,
delighting Midas with his uncouth notes;
for Midas chanced to be there when he played.
When Pan had ceased, divine Tmolus turned
to Phoebus, and the forest likewise turned
just as he moved. Apollo's golden locks
were richly wreathed with fresh Parnassian laurel;
his robe of Tyrian purple swept the ground;
his left hand held his lyre, adorned with gems
and Indian ivory. His right hand held
the plectrum—as an artist he stood there
before Tmolus, while his skilful thumb
touching the strings made charming melody.
Delighted with Apollo's artful touch,
Tmolus ordered Pan to hold his reeds
excelled by beauty of Apollo's lyre.
That judgment of the sacred mountain god
pleased all those present, all but Midas, who
blaming Tmolus called the award unjust.
The Delian god forbids his stupid ears
to hold their native human shape;
and, drawing them out to a hideous length,
he fills them with gray hairs, and makes them both
unsteady, wagging at the lower part:
still human, only this one part condemned,
Midas had ears of a slow-moving ass.
Midas, careful to hide his long ears, wore
a purple turban over both, which hid
his foul disgrace from laughter. But one day
a servant, who was chosen to cut his hair
with steel, when it was long, saw his disgrace.
He did not dare reveal what he had seen,
but eager, to disclose the secret, dug
a shallow hole, and in a low voice told
what kind of ears were on his master's head.
All this he whispered in the hollow earth
he dug, and then he buried all he said
by throwing back the loose earth in the hole
so everything was silent when he left.
A grove thick set with quivering reeds
began to grow there, and when it matured,
about twelve months after that servant left,
the grove betrayed its planter. For, moved by
a gentle South Wind, it repeated all
the words which he had whispered, and disclosed
from earth the secret of his master's ears.